Carnegie Mellon University

Graduate Fields of Study

There are four fields of study for Ph.D. training in Social and Decision Sciences.

Each of these programs is described below, including suggested courses, area faculty, and area advisors. Visit our alumni page to view a list of our Ph.D. alumni, their dissertation titles, and their current positions. Our Ph.D. alumni hold a wide variety of positions in academia, government, and industry.


Behavioral Decision Research (BDR) is an interdisciplinary field that draws on insights from psychology and economics to provide a descriptively realistic picture of human decision making. With economics, BDR shares the idea that human behavior can be understood as a purposeful attempt to achieve well-being, or utility. With psychology, it shares the recognition that social, cognitive and emotional factors have great influence on decisions. For example, people have limited information-processing capacity and opportunities to acquire some of the specific skills needed for effective decision making. The combination of these perspectives leads BDR to focus on ways that real-world decision making deviates from the stylized assumptions of economics and on ways in which performance might be improved.

The Behavioral Decision Research program in Social and Decision Sciences received top honors in two categories from the Decision Analysis Society at INFORMS, the field's leading professional organization. The program was "Recognized as a national leader for the outstanding quality of its annual contributions to education, research, and service."

Social and Decision Sciences also offers a joint program of the Behavioral Decision Research program with the Department of Psychology; see the section below for more information on the joint program.

Graduates from the BDR program are prepared for positions in industry, traditional departments, or business schools. Ph.D. students work with their advisors to plan their programs of study, but suggested courses for the BDR program include Judgment and Decision Making, Behavioral Economics, Micro-economics, Econometrics, field-specific methodology courses, elective courses in psychology and economics, the SDS Ph.D. seminar, and the speaker series from the Center for Behavioral Decision Research.

For questions about the Behavioral Decision Research Ph.D. program, contact George Loewenstein.

SDS faculty members in Behavioral Decision Research: 
  • Linda Babcock
  • Julie Downs
  • Paul Fischbeck
  • Christina Fong
  • Coty Gonzalez
  • Alex Imas
  • George Loewenstein (chair)
  • John Miller

The joint doctoral program in Psychology and Behavioral Decision Research uses insights from psychology and economics to provide a descriptively realistic picture of human judgment and decision making. Although there are core requirements for all students, the program is designed to make it easy to combine interests in several academic areas.

Students interested in the joint Psychology/Behavioral Decision Research program are invited to apply at the end of their first year of SDS Ph.D. studies. The application involves a short proposal for a second year paper and dissertation that is truly joint between the two departments, as indicated by co-chairs. The application must be approved by both departments. Students who graduate from this program will receive a joint degree from BDR and Psychology.

For more information, contact one of the faculty members listed below.

Core Psychology/Behavioral Decision Research program faculty members:
  • Brooke Feeney (Psychology)
  • John R. ("Dick") Hayes (Psychology)
  • George Loewenstein (SDS)
A description of this new program is forthcoming.

While most students elect to pursue a standing field, students may also, with the careful oversight of their advisor and the Ph.D. Education Committee, complete the core SDS requirements and receive a degree with the title of Social and Decision Sciences. Students completing a standing field are also eligible for the Social and Decision Sciences degree title. Students meeting requirements for multiple degree titles must select a single title from among the eligible set. To discuss your possible program of study, please contact the head of the Ph.D. program George Loewenstein (SDS).